Football should be the middle name of Kenneth Clark. For the last 33-years, the 1978 Oakland High School graduate, has coached a football team in the Murfreesboro Parks and Recreation Youth Football League.
Kenny Clark, coach of the Vikings in the Murfreesboro Youth Football League, with some of his players. (J. Davis)
And if you count the years he played Jr. Pro football and then a starter at Central Middle School and Oakland, then Clark has certainly earned his stripes of respect as a player and that of a knowledgeable coach.
"I grew up in the projects with my single mother and younger brother and we could not afford the equipment for me to play football", said the 52-year old on how he got started in the sport.
"I was around 13-years old at the time so I went to a Jr. Pro football practice. The coach of the team, Mr. Ledbetter, saw that I wanted to play. He took me to McFadden and got me some equipment, put me at nose guard in my first practice and the center never got off the ball. I was hooked on football from then on."
After graduating from Oakland and service in the National Guard, Clark went to work with General Mills. He has advanced at the plant to where he is now holds a position in management at the facility on Butler Drive. During the same time frame, Clark was part of the Rutherford County Rescue Squad.
"I had a great deal of strong influences as I was going up," said Clark. "And that meant a lot in taking me from my background as a youth and moving me forward to what I am now.
"Now I try to pass along to these kids what others have done for me during my life. To come out here and work with these kids, teach them some life skills and encourage them along is very special time for me in my life"
Clark has coached several age groups during his Youth Football career. But had never put together a team that dominated the schedule. But last season everything fell into place and the Vikings came away with perfect record.
"At my first practice last year, I took a look at those little guys and I thought we will not win a game," said Clark, who coaches in the 9-10 year old division. "But they came together and beat some really good teams. "We had a very good running back and the rest of the players complimented his talent, work great together and we won all of our games. It was a great year."
The 2012 season will be a rebuilding year for Clark.
"We lost some of our starters and some really good players," explained Clark. "We have a smaller line but on the plus side I have some real determined kids. We will do the best we can, learn about football, learn about life and have a good season. No matter what our record is, we will have a good season."
His days a starting nose guard for the Oakland Patriots has long since passed. But his love of the game and the enthusiasm of the athletes he coaches keeps his mind young.
"I live to encourage these kids to win in football and to win at life," added Clark about his philosophy that he tries to pass along to his players.
"I had people do that for me and that is what I try to do for the teams that I have coached, will coach and each child on those teams. "That is what Kenneth Clark is all about. That is what my coaching is all about."
The Murfreesboro Youth Football League has a Senior, Junior and Minor league divisions. The Minor league will start their regular season games on Sept. 15 and the Seniors and Junior divisions will start their regular season games on Sept. 17. Each division will be involved with preseason games leading up to the start of regular season.
The Flag Football classification started their regular season on Sept. 8.